We got picked up from our hostel in the morning and piled into a 'yute' with other people who were also going on the trek with us. We had chosen to do a three day trek, the other option was just a two day one, but as we had extra time in Chiang Mai we thought we would make the most of our time.
So we picked up a few fellow trekkers along the way and our guide introduced himself as 'Moon-Chi'. Bit of an older chap, quite slight in build and with a wicked laugh, and with a catch phrase of "oh my Buddha" which we all found hilarious and adopted along the way. We started our journey with 11 people squashed into the back of the yute driving along the motorway out of the city. Stopping at a butterfly farm (see photos e.g. Giant Atlas Moth) and an orchid farm, which were both beautiful.
We started moving away from civilisation and into lush green mountains and could see elephants at the other various treks along the way, so knew we were close to our destination. The landscape was amazing, thick dense forests and winding roads, with the smell of elephant dung..... love nature! We got to our trekking site just before lunch time and immediately got on with the first activity of the three day expedition, which was the elephant jungle trek.
For those of you who have not experienced this before it is definitely worth doing. You climb up onto a platform where the elephant walks up alongside, with its guide sat on their head as you climb onto its back to sit in the makeshift seat, which is like a cushioned bus seat balancing on lots of rugs to protect the elephants back and tied up underneath. There is no graceful way of doing this and it does feel somewhat strange treading on an animal but we both managed to get on with some shrieks and giggles along the way.
And then they move..... well this caused even more hilarity and trying to take photos without grimacing proved somewhat tricky but we hope we have put on a selection where we are smiling and not clinging on for dear life. There were a few hair raising moments, when the group of elephants walked down a rather steep path to the river and started drinking - "are we going to get sprayed?" - no one did so thankfully our cameras our still intact. The second time was when our elephant, who was the dad to one of the babies tried to stop to talk him. The guide encouraged him to move on as he can get a little over protective and they wanted their passengers to be safe of course, so with a bit of persuasion we moved on without too much hassle.
Back at the ranch and we had a lunch of tofu, veggies and rice, which was delicious and then we were off on the start of our trek.
A few choices words sum this next few hours - hot, very sweaty and steep. But amazing views and we got to know the rest of group and our guide, Moon-Chai better. He was like a mountain goat and pranced from rock to rock and more or less bounded up the mountain.
For the first night we were staying with a hill tribe, which was approximately 1000metres above sea level, with Chang Mai being 500metres above sea level, so we did a fair bit of trekking to get to a much needed resting point.
The hill tribe are Thai and live by similar rule worshipping Buddha, but have their own indigenous language. They live on huts made out of wood struts with bamboo woven together making the walls and flooring. To the light and nimble Thai's this is now problem but to us great big westerners this was a little daunting - is this floor going to take our weight? Of course it did - but the creaking was a bit unnerving at times. We showered - cold water but after the heat and the sweat of the day this was gratefully received. Moon-Chai built a fire in the pit which was on top of the bamboo/wooden flooring and the tired trekkers sat around chatting whilst our dinner was being prepared. We were not disappointed, dinner was a feast of a green curry and a vegetable dish which was equally as delicious, served with rice of course!
The rest of the evening was spent listening to Moon-Chai and one of the villagers singing on the guitars, some local songs, but with a bit of Oasis and Eric Clapton thrown in the for good measure, whilst we gazed at the amazing stars that we could see as we were out of the city.
The sleeping arrangements were basic but what we expected. All 11 of us slept in the same room - like a long corridor, on makeshift mattresses of rugs with mosquito nets to give us some protection from the more ferocious ones which are found in the jungle. We all slept soundly that night after our adventurous day.
We woke up to the daylight creeping in the bamboo hut, showered and had a breakfast of toast and eggs and then started the next part of the trek, which would consist of an hour and a half of steep climbing, the rest would be downhill and we would meet two magnificent waterfalls. Again very hot and sweaty but we made it to our lunch stop were we had a delicious bowl of noodle soup and enjoyed the company of some children playing sling shots and pattercake games. We carried on trekking a little way further and the waterfalls didn't disappoint - sorry Mother Shannon but your one in the back garden is a just a trickle in comparison and I think the neighbours would definitely have something to say if yours was as noisy as these. Especially the second one, which as luck would have it we would be camping by for the evening!!
Again camp was the basic bamboo huts and we all shared the same room, with mosquito nets for a bit of privacy. Dinner couldn't come soon enough for us, we were all famished and it was equally as impressive as the previous evening. We spent the evening playing card games amongst the group -Hannah and I can now actually use the pack we bought with us having actually leant a few games! - and had many laughs and friendly competition between the group, all with the soundtrack of a local guitarist again and the monster waterfall.
This started early again, due to the sound of the waterfall and the sunlight, but once everyone was up we were served breakfast of toast and eggs again to give us the final push of energy to get to the river to do White Water Rafting and Bamboo Rafting. At this stage I think I should mention that route/pathways we were using to get back down were not the clearest to the untrained eye, and there were a few scrapes and bruises along the way involving members of the group, Hannah and I included but nothing serious.
We could hear the river roaring as we approached the White Water Rafting point - which was a little concerning, when they say white water it definitely is even from the take off point. Having never done this before Hannah and I were a little nervous, but after we donned our safety helmets and life jackets, with a safety briefing from a surf dude Thai man we were ready to jump in! We were on the second raft with a guide who was described to us as "the crazy one" - excellent!
We had a fantastic time doing this and there were no injuries sustained and the one person who went overboard was the only person on our raft who had done it before - although if the guide had his way I would have gone in as he was pulling on my lifejacket - they did say he was the crazy one i guess!
The next part of our water experience was the more gentle and serene bamboo rafting, which is exactly what it says on the tin. This was hilarious; we were supposed to float calmly along the now tame river to our final stop and for lunch. However as there were 6 of us on our raft we basically sank! Not in a capsize, disastrous way though. We all managed to stay sat on the raft, but it was submerged under the water and we were sat waist high just floating along. Of course our mad guide was tipping the raft and we all fought hard not to completely capsize and we won one, not without many legs and arms flailing in the air and lots of laughs too.
We made it to dry land and were greeted with Pad Thai - a delicious noodles, tofu, shrimp and egg concoction much loved by all travellers to Thailand - and then the journey home. We met some great people on this trip and were completely exhausted, sweaty and smelly by the time we got back to the hostel but, knew we had had a thoroughly fantastic time!